We are in a global space of struggle that threatens the core of capitalism and its various racialised manifestations not least of which is the boot on the neck of the black majority in South Africa where labour potential is sold to the quintessential lowest bidder in a completely normalised way and human beings are placated to their lot on the basis, literally, that they won’t starve.
This, whilst enormous wealth, built on the back of our natural resources and the backs of our people, drains away to multinationals as we continue to pander to the gods of foreign investment and our people remain in desperate situations.
The politics of the EFF is a direct and loud challenge to capitalist and collaterally racist status quo. Disruption is key to shifting entrenched patterns of injustice. Those who have the courage to disturb the peace are often the real peacemakers of this world.
We often confuse peacekeeping and peacemaking and this can be lethal.
Peacekeeping may result in a veneer of peace. But this is often a false peace brought about by the crushing and often violent methods of police military and/or criminal justice.
The EFF furnished a list of demands after Clicks published an online advert that portrayed black hair as dry and damaged and white hair as normal.
Following this it demanded that Clicks close for five days. Actually, this was a measured approach-a demand for access to information and then a notice to close failing which the EFF would ensure store closure.
The Clicks executive failed to see this as an opportunity to make good and redeem themselves. It would not have amounted to the demise of Clicks. It would’ve caused discomfort and it would’ve hurt their profits, as it should have, and they would’ve had to explain to their shareholders but they could’ve got through it and paid the price of their actions. An appropriate price. A measured price in the circumstances.They could have provided access to information in an appropriate format and could have closed for five days committing to pay their workers whilst losing five days of income. Just five days.
Unfortunately they opted for an arrogant approach and the path of most resistance leaving its (largely poor and black) employees on the front lines of a (very necessary) struggle for racial justice.
We should all be offended. By Clicks. By business that continues to think that they can infringe African dignity in Africa. We should all be saying in unison racists will not do business in Africa. We should all insist on disturbing the ‘peace’ that keeps a deeply unequal society in place.
Law and order should never be a proxy for justice. When will we learn that if we want peace we need to be serious about justice?
And the extent to which African hair is still inordinately policed in Africa-in our schools, and in workplaces, and in our minds is indicative that the pandemic of oppression, racism being an ongoing manifestation, is alive and well and it will end us all.
Movements like Black Lives Matter and aligned formations are opening a healing portal for us all but we need to drop being satisfied with peacekeeping and its associated violent imposition of calm and we really need to get serious about peacemaking. That is how we usher in justice.
As far as I could tell, the EFF was not calling for damage or destruction. There was no call to destroy Clicks. Essentially it called for reparative and restorative measures aimed at interrupting action that is a continuation of an underlying theme of a deeply unjust society. For the most part, this was peaceful, though disruptive protest. And protest must bring about disruption. Where there was any form of destruction, we should surely attribute that to the inevitability of the arrogant and obstinate course chosen by Clicks in the circumstances.
In this way and in many other ways the EFF is leading the way in disturbing the “peace “. And in displacing the false peace that helps to maintain the status quo.
It is exposing the folly of “law and order“ in a society that is deeply unjust.
By Sheena St Clair Jonker
ADR NETWORK SA